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American Literature Essay

1) Description of the Course American Literature is a course for the students of fourth years of learning English as their major. Through the introduction of the history and development of literature, and learning the selected sections of literary works, the students can get a thorough understanding of American literature as a whole outline and grasp the method of how to enjoy the literary works. Thus they can learn some knowledge about understanding literature. As the youngest literature in the world, American literature developed very quickly.

Many writers won Nobel Prize for literature. Through learning the course, the students can get to know the different genres of literary forms and the formal language used by the writers. 2) Ways of teaching a. Introduction to the students about the history of the country and development of literature; b. Introduction to the students about the authors and their writing background. \; c. Analyze the selected texts; d. Discuss the texts together; e. Writing practice. Chapter one: Introduction Teaching aid tool: a map of early America

Teaching aim: the students learn why and how to learn literature course, get the general idea of the colonial America and their literary forms. Key Points: a. learning aim; b. Learning method; c. Colonial American characteristics. I. Introduction of the course 1. Why should we learn the course: a. One of the main reasons might be that literature offers a bountiful and extremely varied body of written material, which is “important in the sense that it says something about fundamental human issues and which is enduring rather than ephemeral.

Its relevance moves with the passing of time, but seldom disappears completely the Shakespeare plays whose ending were rewritten to conform to late 17th century taste and which were later staged to give maximum prominence to their romantic hero figures are now explored for their psychoanalytic import. In this way, though its meaning does not remain static, a literary work can transcend both time and culture to speak directly to a reader in another country or a different period of history. Literature is authentic material. By that we simply mean that most works of literature are not fashioned for the specific purpose of teaching a language.

Recent course materials have quite rightly incorporated many authentic samples of language—for example, travel timetable, city plans, forms, pamphlets, cartoons, advertisements, newspaper or magazine articles. Learners are thus exposed to language that is as genuine and undistorted as can be managed in the classroom context. In reading literary texts, students have also to cope with language intended for native speakers and thus we gain additional familiarity with many different linguistic uses, forms and conventions of the written mode with irony, exposition, argument, narration and so on. b.

Cultural enrichment: For many language learners, more indirect routes to understand a country must be adopted so that they gain an understanding of the way of life of the country: radio programmers, films and videos, newspapers and last, literary works. It is true of course that the “world” of a novel, play, or short story is a created one, yet it offers a full and vivid context in which characters from many social backgrounds can be depicted. A reader can discover their thoughts, feelings, customs, and possessions: what they buy, believe in, fear, enjoy; how they speak and behave closed doors.

Reading the literature of a historical period is one of the ways we have to help us imagine what life was like in that other foreign territory. Literature is perhaps best seen as a complement to other materials used to increase the foreign learner’s insight into the country whose language is being learnt. c. language enrichment: we have said that reading literary works exposes the student to many function of the written language, but what about other linguistic advantages?

Language enrichment is one benefit often sought through literature, while there is little a=doubt that extensive reading increases a learner’s receptive vocabulary and facilitates transfer to a more active form of knowledge, it is sometimes objected that literature does not give learners the kind of vocabulary they really need. It may be “authentic” in the sense already mentioned, but the language of literary works is not typical of the language of daily life, nor is it like the language used in learners’ textbooks.

We would not wish students to think that Elizabeth Berret Brownning’s “How Do I love Thee? Is the kind of utterance normally whispered into a lover’s era nowadays! The objection to literature on the grounds of lexical appropracy has some validity, but it need not be an overriding one if teachers make a judicious choice of the text to be read, considering it as a counterpoise and supplement to other materials. On the positive side, literature provides a rich context in which individual lexical or syntactical items are made more memorable.

Reading a substantial and contextual zed body of text, students gain familiarity with many features of the written language —the formation and function of relines, the variety of possible structures, the different ways of connecting ideas—which broaden and enrich their own writing skills. The extensive reading required in tackling a novel or long play develops the student’s ability to make inferences from linguistic clues, and to deduce meaning from context, both useful tools in reading other sorts of material as well. Literature helps extend the intermediate or advanced learner’s awareness of the range of language itself.

Literary language is not always that of daily communication, as we have mentioned, but it is special in its way. It is heightened: sometimes elaborate, sometimes marvelously simply yet, somehow, absolutely “right”. 2. What should we learn? History and Anthology of American literature 3. Some Literary works: Selected Reading in American Literature ??? Selected Reading in American Literature ?? Selected Reading in American Literature ??? Contemporary American Literature with Collateral Readings ??? High Lights of American Literature ?? An Anthology of 20th Century American Fiction ???

A Survey of American Literature ??? 20???????? ??? ?????????? ??? Chapter Two The Literature of Colonial America I. Teaching Time: One period. II. Teaching Aim: through introduction, the students should get an idea about the history and development of American nation and how did the American literature came into being and what is the characteristic of its early literature. III. Teaching method: Teacher’s Presentation. IV. Teaching Tool: multi-medium. V. Key points: the characteristics of early literature. Introduction I. The native Americans and their culture:

Before being explored by European adventurers the American Continent had long been inhabitated by the natives—American Indians. Physical characteristics of the American Indians are mongolocial or a mixture of that with something else. They probably first began coming from Asia to America during the Ice ‘Age,8000-5999 BC. They crossed Berring Strait by raft. Through hundred and thousands of years these earliest inhabitants developed their own civilizations. They learned agriculture, basketry and pottery. The most striking achievements were in agriculture.

Maize—“Indian Corn” was developed from a wild grass. The white potato, the cacao bean, tobacco were all developed by Indians. Indians remained in tribe society. II. The historical background of the Colonial Time: 1. the first England settlement: Christophe Columbus (1451 he believed the world is round, find the route to East by sailing West, he asked the help from Queen of Spain to support him. On Aug. 3. 1492, three small vessels set sail with 100 crews, after several months of sailing they arrived at Balama Island—San Salvador on Oct. 12. 1492. He landed and in March 1493 returned.

He had 4 voyages in his lifetime. 2. English settlement: 1607 Captain Christopher Newport, three ships — Chesapeake Bay Jamestown Mayflower 1620 Plymouth Puritans New England area 3. Conflicts with Indians and the founding of 13 colonies. III. The development of Literature: American literature emerged out of obscurity into history only some four centuries ago. It is the newest of the literatures of great nations, yet it is original in many aspects. It is original because it mirrors the history of America, and epitomizes the development of political and economics, social and psychological institutions.

It is original because upon it has played most of those great historical forces and factors that have molded the modern world: immigration, nationalism, individualism, imperialism, religion, science, technology and democracy. In addition to its realistic and vivid reflection of the madding of the distinctly shaped character of American people, it is original in variety and cultural colors; such features of American literature may find expression in its products in the colonial period. John Smith a British soldier of fortune.

“A True Relation of Such Occurrences and Accidents of Note as hath happened in Virginia” “New England Trials” “The General History of Virginia” Within a few decades a considerable number of learned people, such as Puritan clergymen and governors, produced a considerable body of writing of high literary quality, yet they were not literary people in the professional sense. Their writing included diaries, travel books, collections of letters, journals, histories, poetry, biographies, autobiographies and prose, to which the Puritans contributed much.

In addition to being true believers of their religious doctrines, the early puritans generally have college education with a sound knowledge of the literary classics, and learned much about the basic qualities of literature from the ancient and contemporary authors in the old continent. Such responsible for the two essential characteristics of the early American literature: their religious subject and imitation of English literary traditions. 1) William Bradford (1590-1657) Of Plymouth Plantation (2) John Winthrop (governor of Massachusetts Bay) Journal 1790 The History of New England (3)Edward Taylor.

The New England Quarterly (4)Cotton Mather Magnolia Christi Americana Characteristics: In spite of the unique features that the colonial men of letters, reflected in their writings, some common characteristic run through almost all the principal works of the major literary figures of the colonial period, which mirrored the nature of colonial American literature and continued to be the subsequent development of American literature and of America itself. Puritanism was central to colonial American literature and its impact could find expression in almost all respects concerning literature.

The conviction that all religious progress centered in the individual led colonial writers to make records of his spiritual development in the forms of diary and autobiography: a strenuous self-analysis and ceaseless searching of conscience in the writings of the Puritans was the result of their belief that “election” would show itself in the behavior and in the experiences of the inner life of the individual. In keeping with the belief that American literature should concern itself with spiritual and in the experiences of the inner life of the individual.

In keeping with the belief that literature should concern with spiritual values, the sermon became the most highly developed and the most popular of Puritan and compact expression, and its avoidance of rhetorical decoration excellently illustrated Puritan aesthetic and moral theories. In accordance with their way of life, the Puritans preferred a style characterized by homeliness of imagery, simplicity of diction and an emphasis on the values most easily recognized by their readers.

It is for the same reason that they disliked the sensuous appeal of certain types of imagery and favored the figures and images drawn from the common experiences of the New England settlers. Questions for discussion: 1. What were the features of colonial America? 2. What were the literary characteristics? 3. What was the Puritanism? Reference Books: 1. ???????? ??? ??? 2. ????????? E. Spiller

3. ????????? ??? ??? Chapter 3 The Literature of Reason and Revolution I, Teaching time: 4 teaching hours II. Teaching Aim: the students should know the reason and effect of American Revolution, and the characteristics of the literature.

Through learning the selected works, the students get to know the writing style of them. III. Teaching Method: a. presentation, b. analysis of the contexts of the works, c. questions and discussion. IV. Key points: writing style of the prose works. Introduction: I. The Historical Background: a) two revolutions {American Revolution Enlightenment 1) European’s conflicts in the New Continent; 2) The cause of the Revolution; 3) The procedure of the Revolution; 4) The significance of the Revolution. II. The Development of Literature: 1) prose of Thomas Paine, Franklin and Thomas Jefferson;

2) Poetry of Byrant Questions for Discussion: 1) What do you know about American Revolution? 2) What do you know about Washinton? 3) What is the main trend of literature? III. Authors and their writings in this period: 1) Benjamin Franklin A . his life and works: Benjamin Franklin was a brilliant, industrious and versatile man. Starting as a poor boy in a family of 17 children, he became famous on both sides of the Atlantic as a statesman, scientist and author. Despite his fame, he always remained a man of industry and simple tastes.

Franklin’s writings range from informal sermons on thrift to urbane essays. He wrote gracefully as well as clearly with a wit which often gave an edge to his words. Though the style he formed came from imitating two noted English essayists, Addison and Steele, he made it into his own. His most famous work is his Autobiography. Before his autobiography, his “Poor Richard’s Almanac(1733-1758) became popular readings which contain many proverbs like: Early to bed, and early to rise, Makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. Franklin’s Autobiography is many things.

First of all it is an inspiring account of a poor boy’s rise to a high position. Franklin tells his story modestly, omitting some of his misdeeds, his errors as being much less than perfect. He is resigned to the fact that his misdeeds will often receive a punishment of one sort or another. Viewing himself with objectivity, Franklin offers his life story as a lesson to others. It is a positive lesson that teaches the reader to live a useful life. In fact the Autobiography is a how-to-do it book, a book on the art of self-improvement.

In 1771, while living in England and serving as ambassador for most of the colonies, Franklin began his autobiography as a letter to his son, Willliam. He got as far as the year 1730(including his arrival in Philadelphia) being interrupted by “the affairs of the Revolution”. In 1784, while living at Passy, France, then a suburb of Paris, he extended his Autobiography through 1731. The bulk of the remainder of the work was added in 1788 and the final few pages were written in1790, the year of his death. None of this was published while Franklin lived.

Shortly after his death, a French translation of his life to 1731 ( the first two section that Franklin wrote) was published. Though this was soon translated into English and published in London, the “official text did not appear until 1818, as part of the works of Benjamin Franklin,” edited by his grandson William Temple Franklin. The first “complete” Autobiography—with the pages written in 1790—did not appear until 1868, edited by John Bigelow, who had bought Franklin’s original manuscript from a Franklin family the previous year.

The Autobiography covers Franklin’s life only until 1757 when he was 51 years old, well before his major accomplishments as a diplomat. The work as a whole was written by a man well beyond the normal age of retirement, yet it is not the less lively for that fact. Franklin’s mastery of a prose style characterized by clarity, concision, flexibility and order was central to his fame as a great man of letters. Such major features of his style was summarized by himself in a short paragraph: The words used should be the most expressive that the language affords, provided that they are the most generally understood.

Nothing should be expressed in two words that can as well be expressed in one; that is, no synonyms should be used, or rarely, but the whole should be as short as possible, consistent with clearness: the words should be placed as to agreeable to the ear in reading; summarily, it should be smooth, clear, and short for the contrary qualities are displeasing. 2) Analysis of the Selected part: A. 3 paragraphs: a. what interest did Franklin have as a child; a. Being an apprentice to his brother, Franklin began writing; b. Improving argumentation. Summary: Franklin was thirty to knowledge and trying to learn the language with practical methods.

B a. the way of learning languages; a. Practice makes perfect; b. Relations to his relatives; c. Learning club. Summary: Franklin was a practical man. In learning languages we know he had a strong endurance and leaver mind. 3) Thomas Pain (2737-1809) I. Introduction: Pain was the son of a British starymaker and he himself entered the same trade. He came to America with a letter of introduction from Franklin and began helping edit the Pennsylvania Magazine. In Jan. 1776, he published anonymously a pamphlet called Common Sense, which was the first blunt call for outright independence.

In three months, more than 100,000 copies of the pamphlet were sold. The pamphlet had tremendous effect in swinging the public to the support of independence and helped prepare the public mood for “The Declaration of independence. ” When the war came, Paine joined the army. To strengthen the morals of the soldiers, he wrote his stirring series of articles, The Crisis. The first of the sixteen numbers began with the famous challenge “These are the times that try man’s souls. ” Many of the sixteen numbers were written “on drumhead” in some of the darkest moments of the War, between 1776 and 1781.

Paine was direct, clear, candid, bold, witty, passionate and inspiring. His writing appeals to both emotion and logic. His defects lay in excessive brashness, and in fluent superficiality. Nevertheless, as a pamphleteer he was without equal. His was the most powerful single voice of propaganda on behalf of the Revolution. After the war, Paine returned to England. Because of his sympathy for the French Revolution, as expressed in his The Rights of Man, he was forced to flee to France. He was elected a deputy there, but as a moderate he was later put into prison. In prison he wrote “The Age of Reason”, attacking Christianity.

Paine returned to America at Jefferson’s invitation, but was ostracized because of his radical ideas and speeches. He died in poverty. II. Study the selected parts: A. Questions for understanding: 1. In what sense does Paine use the verb “try” in the first sentence of the essay? Paine uses the word “try” in the sense of “ test to the limit”, “subject to great hardships. ” 2. To what three type of criminal does Paine indirectly compose George III? Paine compares George III to a murderer, a highwayman, and a housebreaker. 3. What does Paine mean by an “offensive war”? What reason does he give for not supporting such a war?

For Paine, an offensive war would have been one in which American would have been the aggressors, the first to attack. He equated such a war with murder and would not support it for that reason. 4. What kind of war does he believe the American Revolution to be? Paine clearly believes the American Revolution to be a defensive war, one in which his side was defending itself against oppression and enslavement. Summary: In “The American Crisis” Paine maintains that “these” times will put man to a test. Those who will fight only during the summer and sunshine deserve no praise.

We need soldiers who will fight anytime, who will make sacrifices for the noble cause of democratic revolution. Paine maintains that consolation for those Americans who support the overthrow of tyranny is the belief that they will win “more glorious” victory. In other words, people must appreciate what they believe in and fight hardest for. Britain’s declaration that she may “bind us in all cases whatsoever” is nothing more than slavery, and only God may have such “undiminished” power. He believes that God will “not give up” or abandon a people who have so steadfastly tried to avoid war.

Certainly Britain cannot look to God for guidance; criminals have as much reason to look for guidance as the British, in fact they are criminals. In short “The American Crisis’ is an Enlightenment, Deist document. Man relies on reason and indomitable optimism, not salvation, for deliverance from travail. However much the soldiers, a scholar, the common man struggling for victory wants the support of God, he must rely o his devotion to his cause and to his fellowman. Questions for Further study” 1. How do you understand the title of the essay “The American Crisis: 2. What does the writer think of the torries?

3. What is Paine’s attitude towards the British troops? (4)Thomas Jefferson(1743-1826) I. Introduction Jefferson was born on the Virginia frontier. After his graduation from college, he became the owner of a plantation and a gentleman farmer. He was a man of many talents, deeply interested in science, experimental agriculture and education. He was a scientist, inventor, musician and linguist. As an architect, he designed his home, Monticello. He founded and designed the University of Virginia. In 1775, he went to the Continental Congress and drafted The Declaration of Independence the next year.

In the Virginia legislature, he led successful attacks on the established church and an unsuccessful attack on slavery. He served his country as minister to France(1784-1798), Secretary of State(1789-1793), vice President(1797-1801) and President(1801-1809). He is best known for his political philosophy—Jeffersonian /Democracy, which includes faith in the individual and common man, dislike an overly strong central government, and emphasis on the importance of education and on agrarianism and land ownership as they brought responsibility and true judgment.

Politically, Jefferson is considered the father of the democratic spirit in his country. He never thought of himself as an author, but his essays, letters and public papers, when finally collected, may fill fifty volumes. As a writer, he showed dignity, flexibility, clarity, lyrical appreciation of nature and command of generalization, but he was occasionally wordy and tedious. On the whole he followed his theory of putting force before pedantic correctness. II. The Declaration of Independence.

The committee to draft the Declaration of Independence begins its work on June 11. On June 28 it presented the draft to the Congress. The document was primarily the work of Jefferson with revisions recommended by other members of the committee, especially, Franklin and John Adams. The final version had undergone further revision before the Congress finally adopted it. The Declaration of Independence adopted July 4. 1776, not only announced the birth of a new nation, it also set forth a philosophy of human freedom, which served as an important force in the western world.

It rested upon particular grievances, but more upon a broad base of individual liberty, of individual will, so cherished by Americans. Endurance of oppression could meet its threshold; after that, the people must form a new state. Its ideas inspired mass fervor for the American cause, for it instilled among the common people a sense of their own importance and inspired struggle for personal freedom, self government and a dignified place in society. It is evident here and in American literature that Americans are protective of their freedoms in however way they choose to interpret them.

In addition, Jefferson’s purpose in writing is to make the experiment of free government so successful that it would be an example to the rest of the world and a moral force in the destiny of mankind. The principles of decentralization of authority, agrarian economy, public education and flexible laws were all by-products of the central doctrine of Lockian perfectibility. III. Questions for discussion: 1. What reason for writing the Declaration does Jefferson give in its first part of the body paragraph? He says he wishes to declare the cause for the break with Britain out of “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.

” 2. According to the Declaration, where does a government get its power? A government gets its powers “from the consent of the governed”. This, of course, is a major tenet of a democracy. 3. What are the “unalienable rights” that Jefferson mentions? They are “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. ” Alienable is a legal term meaning capable of being transferred to another. The point Jefferson is making is that on one can take away these rights from the individual. 4. What person or thing does Jefferson blame most of the ills of the colonies? There can be no question that he blames King George III most.

At one point he refers to “others”, meaning Parliament, but he had previously argued that Parliament had no authority whatsoever over the colonies; thus he had to focus here on the king, the only bond the colonies had with England. 5. What pledge did the signers of the Declaration make to each other? They pledge their lives, fortunes and sacred honor. These fifty-six men realized they might be signing their death warrants. Affixing their signatures to the Declaration was no idle exercise. 6. What do you suppose Jefferson meant by the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God?

How might such laws differ from or be the same as other laws? The laws of nature and nature’s God were what are commonly called “natural laws”, which might or might not be opposed to man-made laws. Jefferson was quite conscious of the fact that some of the laws of the king and Parliament were opposed to such natural laws. Slavery would be an illustration of unnatural laws. The natural law is a body of laws, which are fundamental to human nature, and are determined by an innate human sense of justice without reference to man-made laws, which, by contrary, are conditioned by history and subject to continuous change.

Man is given “natural rights” by the natural law and not by any man-made law. In other words, men are born entitled to certain rights, which we call natural rights. The theory of natural law and natural rights provided a theoretical basis for the American and French Revolution in many countries as well. 7. Jefferson basically mentions four “self-evident” truths. Name them. Then argue for or against the notion that they are in fact self-evident. The self-evident truths to which we refer are a. } that all men are created equal b) that they have an alienable rights c) that governments are instituted to

secure these rights and d) that people can alter or abolish an unjust government and make a new one. Historically, none of these “truth” is self-evident. Governments have treated and continue to treat citizens unequally and as if they had no rights at all. And even in Jefferson’s time, neither woman nor blacks were treated equally. 8. Jefferson says it is the “right and duty” of mankind to throw off “absolute despotism. ” What does he mean? Absolute despotism refers to a government in which the ruler holds absolute power and presumably tyrannizes his or her “subjects”.

Why would it be the duty of mankind to throw off such a despotism? It would be the duty of humankind to do so because a despot would make the pursuit of such things as life, liberty and happiness impossible. Under a despot, one would not be human; one could not realize oneself. 9. Compare the attitude expressed in the Declaration toward the British people with that toward King George III. The British people are referred to as “our British brethren. ” They and the colonists share a “common kindred”. Their unselfishness and graciousness are noted through the word magnaminity.

But they, like their king, “have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. ” Thus, the British people must be held, as the rest of the world is held, as “enemies in war, in peace, friends. ” The king and Parliament bear the brunt of the colonist “wrath. ” It is the king who is charged with all their grievances. His history is one “of repeated injuries and usurpations. ” Because he desires to establish “absolute tyranny” over the colonies, he is ”unfit to be the ruler of a free people. 10.

Argue for or against the notion that the Declaration of Independence was a piece of “propaganda”. Propaganda is defined as “ the spreading of ideas, information or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause or a person. ” Jefferson certainly spreads ideas and information for the purpose of helping a cause and injuring George III. His Declaration clearly is a thing from the documents. However, it is an excellent piece of propaganda, in the sense in which that word is properly defined. Further Reading: Volume of Thomas Jefferson 4) Philip Freneau (1752-1832) I.

Introduction: Thomas Jefferson described Freneau as the man who “saved our constitution which was fast galloping into monarchy. ” He was born in New York to a prosperous family whose ancestors came to America as Protestant refugees from 17th century France. At the age of 16, Freneau entered Princeton, where he was a classmate of James Madison. While an undergraduate, Freneau wrote “The Power of Francy,” his first important poem, and he collaborated with Brackenridge, a novelist on a patriotic, visionary poem, “The Rising Glory of America” read at the commencement ceremonies in 1771.

After graduation, Freneau worked briefly and unsuccessfully as a school master. In the summer of 1775, at the start of American Revolution, he was in New York, where he wrote a series of stinging, patriotic satires. In 1776, he traveled to the West Indies. There he wrote “The House of Night” a poem lush with images of tropical nature and he saw the horrors of slavery that later attacked in “To Sir Toby” Two years later Freneau returned to North America where he enlisted in the colonial militia and then became a seaman on a blockade runner.

In 1780 he was captured by British naval forces and imprisoned for six weeks on ‘The Scorpion, a British prison ship in New York Harbor. Imprisonment increased his hatred for the British and all the government. When he was released in an exchange of prisoner, he made his way to Philadelphia, where he began to write for the Freeman’s journal for his ardent patriotic verse and For his scathing satire of the British and of royalist sympathizes. With the end of the Revolution, Freneau returned to the sea for his livelihood, serving between 1784 and 1790 as master of a merchant ship.

In ‘786 his first volume of poems was published and in 1790 he resumed his career as a journalist. A year later with the aid of Jefferson, Secretary of State under Washington, Freneau was appointed a translator in the State Department and he established the National Gazette, a semi-weekly newspaper that became the voice of liberal democracy in American politics. For the next two years, Freneau joined in a series of vicious political battles with the Federalist supporters of Washington government.

With his own strong satires and exposes and with learned essays on government written by Madison and Braderidge, Washington protested to Jefferson for employing “that rascal Freneau”. In 1793, Jefferson retired as Washington’s Secretary of State. With his patron out of office and with the circulation of his newspaper dwindling, Freneau closed the Gazette and returned to his family farm in New Jersey. In 1803 he was forced to return to the sea to earn his living as a ship’s captain.

Four years later he returned once more to his New Jersey farm and worked the last years of his life as an occasional laborer and wandering tinker. In 1832, when he was eighty, he became lost in a snowstorm on his way home from a tavern and died of exposure. Freneau’s political journalism in behalf of democracy had won him fame and help lead to the rise of Jasksonism and the “Age of the common Man” in America. But since the mid-19th century, his journalistic triumphs have been overshadowe.



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